Appleby shot a 5-under-par 67 in the morning for the third-round lead, then overcame a bogey-bogey start to shoot 71 and win by one stroke from Payne Stewart and Michael Bradley.
Appleby, a 25-year-old Australian who had to go through qualifying school last year, finished at 14-under 274 over the TPC at Heron Bay. Bradley, four strokes back going into the final 18 holes, had a chance to send it into a playoff but missed a 22-foot birdie putt on the last hole.
Britain's Colin Montgomerie was alone in fourth at 277 after shooting rounds of 70 and 71 yesterday.
After the second round was washed out by rain, officials initially decided to make it a 54-hole event but then agreed to play two rounds yesterday. It was the first 36-hole finish since Fred Couples won the Buick Open in 1994. "Today was a struggle, but I kept saying to myself I didn't want to lay down," Appleby said.
In achieving his first success on the PGA Tour he prevented Stewart from collecting the victory he needs to get into the Masters. Stewart, the former PGA and US Open champion who has not won since the 1995 Houston Open, appeared to be in control of the tournament with a two-stroke lead until he missed a 30in par putt on the 12th.
The tournament turned on the 573-yard 14th hole. Without much green to work with, Appleby put a wedge into the fringe and rolled it into the cup for an eagle, pulling him into a tie with Stewart at 13 under.
"You've got to take the good with the bad," Stewart said. "I still had opportunities to win the golf tournament."Reuse content